Spoiler alert: Hennig Brand discovered phosphorous by boiling pee. And phosphorous is the first element whose discoverer we can name. But he was really trying to do something else: He thought the secret to the philosopher’s stone might be found in urine.
This installation of Six Impossible Episodes is a bit of a hodge podge, with several oft-requested topics. Included are Olive Yang, the Silent Parade of 1917, Glencoe Massacre, Marion Downs, Lena Himmelstein and the Great Windham Frog Fight of 1754.
In February 1855, mysterious prints that looked like hoof marks appeared all over the English seaside county of Devon. But figuring out who or what made those prints is a puzzle that continues to befuddle people.
For a brief window from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, people in the United States were watching train wrecks for fun. These staged spectacles would draw thousands and thousands of paying onlookers, but why exactly were they so popular?
While many have admired heiress Casati over the years for her life led entirely based on her aesthetics, when you examine her biography, you find a woman who was incredibly selfish and was even described by close friends as megalomaniacal.
Franz Liszt was a pianist, a composer and a conductor, and basically the first rock star who drove fans into fits of swooning and screaming. Some fans even stole the detritus of his life (unfinished coffee, broken piano strings) to carry with them. Read the show notes here.
Once the effort to import hippos to the U.S. got the backing of a politician, two men with wild and intertwined histories, Frederick Russel Burnham and Fritz Duquesne, were brought on board to serve as experts and advocates. Read the show notes here.
People feel very strongly about time capsules, even though the contents are often a little underwhelming. What actually qualifies as a time capsule, and what are some of the most notable ones? Read the show notes here, including a correction about some State House confusion.